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A talk with SCV’s top cop

Newly appointed Capt. Roosevelt Johnson discusses his goals as local sheriff’s station’s leader

Posted: March 6, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: March 6, 2014 2:00 a.m.

Newly appointed Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station Capt. Roosevelt Johnson, the city's de facto chief of police, sits in a conference room at the station on Wednesday. Signal photo by Dan Watson.

Newly appointed Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Capt. Roosevelt Johnson wants to preserve Santa Clarita Valley’s reputation as one of the safest communities in the country, he said Wednesday during an interview at the Sheriff’s Station.

The day was only his third as Santa Clarita Valley’s top cop, but Johnson was ready to share his vision of the community he’s called home for half his life. At age 46, Johnson has lived in Santa Clarita for 23 years.

“This community remains one of the safest in the country, and I’m going to make sure it stays that way,” he said. “And I’m going to be doing it in a professional way, not waiting for things to occur.”

“I just got here,” Johnson said. “So my goal is to take ownership of any crime in the valley and formulate a plan to make sure the deputies are tackling it and to eliminate that problem.”

Responding to a Signal story published Wednesday about a decrease in local heroin-related deaths, Johnson said: “There’s an education component that needs to be in place to make sure it doesn’t re-surface, and that means educating the community, educating kids and parents to make sure it doesn’t come back.”

Johnson is a believer in community-based policing, which calls for zero tolerance of even minor crimes. The popular policing strategy calls for a visible police response to all crimes, big and small — graffiti, for example, gets removed immediately, and if vandals break a window, that window is replaced.

“I’m going to make sure my deputies are doing their jobs,” he said, “that they’re pro-active, not waiting for things to occur but stop some things from happening.

“I’m definitely about community-based policing, and that involves also having the deputies get out of their cars, get out and walk around and make sure the community members know who they are and to ensure that we take care of all the little things. Because the little things, if you let them go, turn into big things.”

Crime rates

Johnson called SCV’s low crime rates “pretty impressive.”

No stranger to addressing specific crime trends, according to his peers, Johnson was instrumental in helping bring crime rates down drastically in Altadena.

“You look at the crime in Santa Clarita and it’s down and it has remained low — that’s a combination of good, hard work that the deputies have conducted out here and the partnership they’ve established with the community.

“It’s critical that the community understands that we don’t have the money to put a thousand cops on the street. However, with their help and their partnership, we can resolve any kind of crime problem.”

Navy man

Johnson grew up in Port Arthur, Texas, east of Houston.

From 1986 to 1990 he served with the U.S. Navy on an aircraft carrier, seeing military action briefly in the Strait of Hormuz in the late ‘80s.

“I knew I was getting out (of the Navy) so I started testing for law enforcement agencies, and I ended up getting hired by the San Diego Police Department and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. I applied to both and got a letter from each.”

Johnson chose the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department because it paid better, he said.

He spent three tough years working a patrol assignment at the Century Sheriff’s Station in Lynwood, then worked for a while at the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station.

“I worked some pretty tough areas and was promoted to sergeant at working the training bureau, then to Lennox Station.”

Johnson was operations lieutenant at the Altadena Sheriff’s Station for more than two years. In May 2012 he left that post to serve as aide to Chief Neal Tyler at Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Headquarters in Monterey Park.

After Tyler retired, Johnson became aide to former Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station Cmdr. Anthony LaBerge, who was promoted to head up the county’s North Patrol Division.

The division includes Santa Clarita, Lancaster, Palmdale, Malibu/Lost Hills, Westlake Village and West Hollywood. Until last year it included Altadena.
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